A not bad vote for me video

Ever do a truly crappy job at something you cared about? That was me a month ago when I put together my first YouTube video. I did it – God forgive me for my sins – because the organizer of the Business of Software Conference in a fit of Pure Evil decided the only way for speakers to get on was to do a vote for me video.

For an awful lot of people out there in videoland pointing a camera at yourself seems to come as naturally as snorting apple pie from your nose: I am not by nature that kind of guy. I’d rather visit my dentist, and he hates me.

Terrible, awful, horrible did not describe it. By comparison, I made Al Gore look like Madonna. My horror compounded as I realized that soon, other Evil conference organizers would undoubtedly follow suit and I faced a dismal bleak future of more of these damn video tryouts. From evil conference organizers the virus would spread to publishers, clients, prospective bosses and more and more people caught the YouTube bug.

After a month of sleepless nights and depressed days agonizing over what to do in this Brave New Video World, a strange golden light surrounded me early yesterday morning and an amazing calm filled me. A godlike voice said in my head, “This is television dummy! There’s always a take 2!”

I woke realizing I’d fallen asleep watching the movie Network, but the godlike voice (GLV to his friends) was right – video is here to stay, and this old dog better learn some new video tricks right quick if he wanted to be up on that speaking stage.

So here’s the tricks I learned creating my second video vote for me, just in case you find yourself in the same video or die situation:

Do not perform unnatural acts on Television. And the most unnatural act of all in TVLand is to talk into one fixed camera position for grinding minute after minute. Television jumps. Right. Left. Close up. Pan back. Television changes its visual point of view anywhere from every 6 seconds for commercials and game shows to maybe as long as 20 seconds for talking heads and major disasters. We are all conditioned to see television that way – and bucking the flow is not going to work. So you need to chop up your video and film it from different angles.

Do what good Directors do. Steal. Okay, not actually steal – more like buy for incredibly few dollars. In the same way a good stock photo from iStockPhoto is worth the dollar it will cost you, iStockPhoto.com has about 45,000 video clips you can by for $10 a pop. You at the beginning, 5 stock videos with you voiceovering, you at the end in case they forgot what you’re trying to sell them and your done.

You call this a script? On my first attempt, I wrote up some notes, and winged it. Winging it unless you are dressed in a chicken suit does not work on television. Having a script right in front of you that you’ve read 23 times until you’re sick of it and can mumble it in your sleep does. Write a script. Learn the script. This is television.

Good video means use small words. I’ve been railing at TV news for years because instead of soberly discussing the parameters of a given political/economic/socialogical nexus of import they talk in short little words that a sixth grade boy or girl would be fine with. Guess what? I was wrong.

When we are in television receiving mode and 90% of our brain is busy following the action from film jump cut here to over there, it’s too damn hard to process complicated audio. It don’t work. So if you are going to make your video visually interesting by using a variety of shots and subjects you’d better dumb down your presentation from observing Lepidopterans to see the pretty butterfly otherwise you’re audience will tune out and turn off.

Words reinforce images reinforce words. I went back and forth between writing the script and riffling iStockPhoto’s video library – back and forth. Looking for the right images to make each main point and then rewrite your script to use language and metaphor that fits the videos. You want to tie the words to the images and the images to the words.

The Right Tool is the Right Tool. For me, Apple iMovie ’08 is incredible. It made all the pain of putting together my second video go away – whoosh! Doing the voiceover, doing title, adjusting the clips and transitioning between shots was dirt easy. Awesome product.

The smaller the screen, the faster you’d better speak. As I watch my video again I realized my speaking speed is still way too slow: what moved right along when I was working with the video covering most of my screen seems way too slow when looking at a YouTube postage stamp sized screen.

This just in from my friend corporate video producer Tom The Director who’s forgotten more about making videos than I’ll ever learn:

“Suggestion…SMILE!!!! :-) I remember our conversation on the phone and your smile is missing from this video.

I dealt with a CEO today of a major corporation who refused to smile. If you say nothing but only smile, you’ll change the world. Words are really extra stuff. Smile, then words. That’s my mantra :-)”

That’s my list of video tips for now. By the way, Neil Davidson, the Evil Conference Organizer was nice enough to let me put my second video up (I think removing the pins from my Neil Davidson Voodoo Doll helped). And last Sunday, I got the word I’d made the final cut.

Who says you can’t teach an old analog dog new digital tricks?

Bob Walsh by day helps microISVs (software startups) succeed at 47hats.com, by night sells MasterList Professional, flogs his second book, Clear Blogging, podcasts and blogs about different aspects of the digital lifestyle. Is it surprising he hears voices in his head?

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